With the Lutheran Church of New Zealand (LCNZ) unable to elect a bishop at its 2023 Convention of Synod, the LCANZ’s College of Bishops has asked the NSW and ACT District to provide oversight for the LCNZ until the next synod in two years.

Leaders from the NSW District Church Council and the LCNZ Council of Synod have met twice, agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) of how this would work and approved the arrangement.

The MOU states that the NSW and ACT bishop will make a two-week visiting tour of all New Zealand churches twice yearly and provide other oversight by email, phone calls and internet meetings from NSW.

The two tours will coincide with the New Zealand Church Workers Conferences and two of the Council of Synod meetings.

The LCNZ assistant bishop will cover other occasional events, such as special anniversaries, the installation of pastors and pastoral care intervention.

NSW and ACT Bishop Robert Bartholomaeus has completed one trip around the 14 New Zealand churches, including meeting with pastors and leaders. He also attended the LCNZ Church Worker Conference, where people shared their learnings of mission and ministry.

Bishop Robert said he saw many things on his tour that would be useful learnings for the NSW and ACT District. He has also shared experiences from the NSW and ACT District with several New Zealand leaders.

LCNZ Bishop Emeritus Mark Whitfield said the agreement reflected a Māori proverb or whakataukī. ‘Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourouka ora ai te iwi – which translates to “with your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive”’.

Bishop Robert, who served as a pastor in New Zealand from 1983 until 2001, said: ‘This whakataukī encapsulates the notion that while working in isolation might result in survival, working together can take people beyond survival and onto prosperity. It is with this expectation that the Lutheran Church of New Zealand and the NSW and ACT District are working together.

‘May God continue to bless our two districts as we share our “food baskets” – the gifts and capacities God has blessed each district with – so that the gospel may flourish and the people who receive it may thrive. May this partnership of love and support in ministry be a mutual blessing.’

Whakapaingia te Atua e whakamine nei i a tātou. Whakamoemititia te Atua kua kotahi nei tātou. Blessed be God who calls us together. Praise to God who makes us one people’, Bishop Emeritus Mark said.

This story is adapted from one first published in the NSW and ACT District magazine Contact.

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